Friday, February 25, 2011

Rainy Day Chili

Today it's raining. I started the day simmering my soaked overnight kidney beans and now I seem to have a pot of chili. I work in the kitchen the same way as I make a painting. What I end up with is often a surprise to me because I don't always plan what I am making. I just start and see where the ingredients take me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Biscotti di Vino - Wine Biscotti

These are my favorite cookie because they are not too sweet, and perfect with a cup of hot English or tea. Sadly I get migrianes from drinking wine but I love to cook with it!

I first found this recipe in my favorite cookbook We Called it Macaroni by Nancy Verde Barr, published by Alfred Knopf. The recipe has also appeared in Gourmet magazine.

In a large bowl combine the 4 cups of the flour, the sugar, the salt, and the baking powder and make a well in the center. Pour in the oil and the wine, combine the mixture, incorporating the flour mixture gradually, until it forms a soft dough, and knead in enough of the remaining 1/2 cup flour to keep the dough from sticking. Divide the dough into 40 pieces, roll each piece into a 5-inch rope, curl the ends and form them into hearts. Bake the hearts slightly apart on baking sheets in preheated 350F oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300F and bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are golden. Let the biscuits cool on racks and store them in airtight containers. Makes 40 biscotti.

The flavor blooms and develops over the week.

I make these with cheap port, Marsala, or any strong, sweet red wine left at our house.

I like to use corn oil in the recipe, and whole wheat flour. I also shape the cookies into hearts so they don't resemble dog droppings.

Sometimes rather than shape the dough into ropes I flatten the dough with my rolling pin and, since the dough is very crumbly, I also press down on the dough with my hands. Then I use a small scalloped-shaped cookie cutter to shape the cookies. I transfer them to cast iron skillets and bake them. The heavy iron pans serve as baking stones, regulating the heat.

4½ cups flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt (more if using whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1 cup corn oil
1 cup full-bodied red wine or port or Marsala wine

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Greens and Sausage Soup

In a large stock pot place a gallon and a half of water, chopped onions, rinsed and chopped greens (kale and/or collards), whole or chopped potatoes, whole sausages, and some olive oil, Adobo seasoning, and salt. Simmer until the sausages are cooked. Then fish the sausages out and chop them into small coins and return them to the pot. Chop the potatoes if needed too.

I buy Jamie Sullivan's home-made Italian sausages from Shaw's Meats, North Main St, Woonsocket (website here).


Chicken Soup

I am a lazy cook but I get inspired by bargains, and by good things kicking around my fridge. Last week my butcher was selling chicken breasts for a song. I bought four and threw them in my stock pot with a gallon of water, a gigantic Spanish onion chopped in fourths, a bunch of whole carrots, chopped celery, a one inch hunk of ginger root, cloves of fresh garlic, a head of fresh cilantro coarsely chopped, and Adobo seasoning. I simmered the soup until the chicken was cooked but still on the bone. I fished out and saved the chicken breasts, and cooled the soup overnight. I skimmed off the chicken fat which had risen to the surface, and added some olive oil. The soup is fabulous in a mug. I don't know why but soup in a big mug is much more fun than in a bowl when you are having lunch alone.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hypnotic Chocolate Pudding

A few years ago my husband hypnotized me to remember the recipe for a delicious chocolate pudding from Leo's, a famous bar & restaurant where we would often meet on a Friday night. Leo's was on Chestnut Street in downtown Providence. I worked in the kitchen as a prep chef twenty five years ago and loved it. Tonight I dug out the recipe, made a whole wheat oil crust sweetened with sugar, pre-baked it at 350 for 20 minutes, and then poured the chocolate pudding inside and refrigerated it.

Leo's Pudding
Melt 2 oz unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler. When fully melted slowly stir in 1/3 cup of sugar. Then in a large measuring cup combine a cup of milk and a cup of coffee. Slowly add nearly two cups of the mixture to the double boiler while stirring, and hold back about 1/4 cup of the liquid. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of butter to the double boiler. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in the withheld 1/4 cup of coffee milk. Then add the cornstarch mixture to the liquids in the double boiler, stirring slowly . Cook for ten minutes stirring constantly. Then cover and cook another ten minutes. Uncover. Turn off heat. Add one teaspoon vanilla, stirring gently. Pour into one pre-baked crust or a few small glass bowls. Refrigerate. I am going to try this recipe again with even more unsweetened chocolate.

Oil pie crust for two sweet wholesome crusts (leave out the sugar for a savory crust)
2 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup corn oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Mix flour and salt and sugar together. Pour in milk and oil, stir with fork and fingers, then press with fingers into two pie pans. Bake for 20-30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

M.F.K. Fisher

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...
-M.F.K. Fisher

It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.
-M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

All men are hungry. They always have been. They must eat, and when they deny themselves the pleasures of carrying out that need, they are cutting off part of their possible fullness, their natural realization of life, whether they are rich or poor.
-M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf

Dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they've lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat - and drink! - with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food, and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.
-M.F.K. Fisher, Serve It Forth

That night I not only saw my Father for the first time as a person. I saw the golden hills and the live oaks as clearly as I have ever seen them since; and I saw the dimples in my little sister's fat hands in a way that still moves me because of that first time; and I saw food as something beautiful to be shared with people instead of as a thrice-daily necessity.
-M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

I am more modest now, but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.
-M.F.K. Fisher

When shall we live if not now?
-M.F.K. Fisher

Sunday, February 13, 2011

M.F.K. Fisher

I cannot count the good people I know who, to my mind, would be even better if they bent their spirits to the study of their own hungers. There are too many of us, otherwise in proper focus, who feel an impatience for the demands of our bodies, and who try throughout our whole lives to deafen ourselves to the voices of various hungers.
-M.F.K. Fisher

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate Pie

I just made a chocolate pie; whole wheat oil crust with semisweet dark chocolate melted and baked on top. Excellent with coffee.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Make Your Own Butter Bell

I like to use unsalted Land-O-Lakes butter. Unsalted butter is made from higher quality cream, and its flavor is not masked by the salt. Press a stick or a half-stick of unsalted butter into a small ceramic or glass dish. A short-stemmed ice cream parlor dish works well. Place the butter-filled dish upside-down into a larger dish filled with cold water. This creates a water air-lock which keeps the butter fresh. Let the butter sit out on your kitchen counter at room temperature. It keeps the butter spreadable. I like to sprinkle my buttered toast with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Michael Pollan

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
-Michael Pollan

Friday, February 4, 2011

Recipe for Pumpkin Pudding

Pumpkin Pudding is pie without the crust

One-Pie Pumpkin recipe from the label on the can

1 can ONE PIE Pumpkin, 15 oz
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon butter melted
1 1/2 cups milk (or 1-12 oz can of evaporated milk)
1 cup sugar (or less)
1/8 cup molasses
2 eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 450 F.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately in another bowl and then combine. Pour mixture into an oven proof dish. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 then lower to 350 for 50 more minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream on top. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Afternoon Tea

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
-Henry James
Tea, that most quintessential of English drinks, is a relative latecomer to British shores. Although the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China, it was not until the mid 17th century that tea first appeared in England.

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880's upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o'clock.

Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.

Pumpkin Pudding

Last night during the ice storm, I decided to make a pumpkin pie. I discovered my 100 pound stash of flour was used up. So I made pumpkin pie anyway but without the crust. I baked it in a glass Pyrex bowl. It was a delicious pumpkin pudding. I will make it on purpose sometime.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Animal Farm

Yesterday I boiled lamb bones I had in the freezer, and today I skimmed the waxy fat off the top and am baking lentils in the stock with olive oil. It smells fabulous. I have leftover egg nog that I am defrosting and might pour over snow to make snow ice cream. I made corn tortillas from instant masa for lunch. I'm getting faster at using the tortilla press and cellophane. My new orange cat is crazy about corn, just like our former orange cat was. Lily tried to leap into my lap on all fours while I was sitting in the cozy chair. She's a dog who thinks she's a lap cat (and I only encourage it). The cat sits like a meatloaf on the cold kitchen linoleum. He thinks he's a dog. I am not sure I'm a person. I know I am part Labrador, but my scalp wants to be scratched like a cat's.

I am thinking of painting the cat crate to look like a motorcycle shop so when the cat sits inside purring, it will sound like a Harley repair shop. As it is we've strung up all the hair ties and little figurines we've collected over the decades to dangle for our new cat. Anyone visiting will think we're living in a gigantic cat toy. Perhaps we are! Sammy has played the piano and tapped the typewriter and been hypnotized by the snow falling out the window. He absolutely loves to chase the tennis ball and pounce on it, but he has to compete with 75 pound Lily if she sees him. They are getting quite intimate. Sammy gently bats Lily like a boxer. Before long I'm sure they will be whirling each other around like dancers.